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The pursuit of mastering one's craft is a complicated day-to-day struggle, an eternal fluctuation of love and hate that few have the bearing to endure. For Michael Rios, the 25-year-old rap auteur known by many as Marvel the GR8, that pursuit is what makes this life so exciting.
Rios began writing poetry at the age of 12 as a vehicle of expression for the emotions of adolescence, which quickly manifested itself as a passion in high school as he participated in rap battles and freestyle sessions under a moniker inspired by his love for comics, culminating in the creation of the group The Circuit with two of his childhood friends from Pomona, California.
The Circuit was the seed from which Marvel's 'GR8-tivity' spawned, a project that allowed his voice to gain its vigor and his ego its clout. The group released a mixtape in 2008 hosted by Mick Boogie entitled For Promotional Use Only, which is a point of reference for the countless thematic influences of Marvel's sound.
In 2010 Marvel took arguably the largest step in his career to date, when he formed the Random Citizens collective with hip-hop heads Danny Parra, Brian Polar, and Brian Vazifdar, his closest friends at Loyola Marmount University and most valued collaborators. After graduating with a degree in English, Marvel used his expertise in wordplay to fuel the next stage of his career, releasing 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to Insanity' – a catalyst for his notoriety on internet music outlets such as AllHipHop and Mad Decent.
Following the critical success of 'Insanity' he released 'GR8', an ambitious 8-track LP that expands on a high point in creativity and establishes Marvel as an enigmatic force in contemporary rap music. The album itself has four independent music videos to accompany it, a testament to Marvel's vision as a virtuoso of multi-media.
To truly understand Marvel's brilliance, however, is to witness his live performance. A gifted performer has the ability to captivate any given audience, and Marvel does just that on countless occasions and at nearly every venue available in Los Angeles: from an intimate music festival in a warehouse district alley to the bright lights in front of thousands at Rock the Bells Los Angeles. A (short) list of artists he's performed with sounds like an all-star Spotify playlist, including Diplo, Game, Pusha T, Fabolous, Too Short, DJ Quik, Cam-Ron, Mos Def, E-40, and J. Cole to name a few.
Marvel's stage presence is the thespian equivalent of a rousing Act V monologue, with a unique delivery that lies somewhere between spoken word and nightclub one-liners at 3 am. Whichever ways Marvel wants you take him seriously are the same ways he wants to make you laugh, a dynamic persona that doesn't rely on fake swagger or uninspired simile to evoke respect. Marvel's upward trajectory makes him one of the most exciting young artists Los Angeles has to offer, and only time will determine the extent of his GR8ness.